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Sailing/17-18th century sailling speed


QUESTION: Hello, I would like to ask how long would it normally take, in fine atmospherical conditions, a fluyt to travel from Colombo port in Ceylan (Sri Lanka) to Gwadar port in Pakistan. I lnow it is a tough question but I would be very pleased if you could answer it.

Thank you.

ANSWER: Ignacio:

Most fluyts were around 80 feet long.  So calculating the theoretical maximum speed:

(80 x SqRt)x 1.34 = 12 knots

Now that is assuming excellent sailing conditions and a clean hull.  That is the absolutely fastest it could sail without it planning, which for a loaded cargo vessel is pretty much impossible.

So I would figure maybe 7 knots would be average maybe 8 tops.

I used the calculator above using an average speed of 7 knots.  It gave a total of 1700 miles taking  8 days, for a modern ship.  

The next thing is the prevailing winds.  Depending on the time of the year, the winds change.  June July and August you would have the monsoon wind off your port quarter, it would be blowing from the southwest which would be advantageous.  Of course there could be the risk of storms then.  

Other times of year, the prevailing winds in the path you would have to take are the trade winds blowing to the southeast which means you would be beating up wind the whole journey.

Historically the trade in the area followed the Indian Coast so I would add distance and maybe drop the speed to 6 knots.   Trade may have hugged the coast taking advantage of the daily change of local wind from onshore to offshore.  

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for the answer. Now i want to know which could be the length of a joruney to the same ports, but in a late 17th century fluyt,


As I stated in my original answer, it would depend on the time of year.  A sailing ship would make about 7 knots and if it had favorable winds it would take about 8-9 days, but if it had to sail up wind, it would probably take 16-18 days because it would have to tack to beat up wind.


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Keith Patton


I can answer questions regarding fresh and salt water Catamarran Sailing, techniques and equipment. I can also answer questions regarding the repair of decks and the updating and installation of running and standing rigging on mono-hulls


I have sailed catammarans in fresh and salt water for over 16 years. I currently own and sail a 30 ft monohull out of Kemah on Galveston Bay, on which I carried out a complete refit.

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